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CONTACT: Susie P. Gonzalez
May 24, 2010
Geosciences Major Presents Research at Undergraduate Conference
SAN ANTONIO – In her first week of field research in West Texas, Trinity University geosciences major Megan D’Errico encountered a rattlesnake and a tarantula. She was immediately hooked.
This spring, Ms. D’Errico was one of 75 students from across the country honored for their scientific research at a Capitol Hill reception. The event, sponsored by the Council of Undergraduate Research, included a poster session showcasing her work exploring the possibility of trapping carbon dioxide in basalt flows in the Black Gap volcanic field of West Texas as a way to prevent global warming.
Originally from the Seattle area, Ms. D’Errico came to Trinity thinking she would take courses to prepare her for medical school. But she was intrigued by a geosciences course called “Exploring Earth” that she took to fulfill a requirement of the University’s Common Curriculum. That led to a semester packed with three sciences courses – in geosciences, chemistry, and physics – along with associated laboratory classes. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t learn from a lecture. I have to do the work. Doing science versus having a professor tell me what is right and wrong is the way I learn.”
Before she knew it, Ms. D’Errico was signing on for a summer research project in West Texas with Benjamin Surpless, assistant professor of geosciences at Trinity. That two-week field opportunity was not only educational, but also put her ahead of her peers when the academic year resumed. She also mastered the computer skills necessary to produce a giant-sized poster displaying details of her work – all valuable preparation for her Washington, D.C. presentations.
“Megan really did Trinity proud – she did a great job of communicating her research to people with a wide range in scientific backgrounds,” said Professor Surpless. He noted that she spoke with heads of more than one Congressional energy committee, members of Congress from both parties, an official with the National Institutes of Health, and Trinity alumna Ana Unruh Cohen, who works in energy and climate policy issues. “I can say, without a doubt, that I never had a day like Megan had.”
Ms. D’Errico said the Capitol Hill experience gave her a taste of possible intersections of her interests in either geosciences or geochemistry and public policy. “I had an opportunity to see how it works and how my research could play into (policy decisions.).” She also spoke with appreciation of how Trinity had supported her field work, academically and financially, telling decision makers, “This would have never happened in any other university. It was a cool story to tell on the Hill.”
She will spend the summer conducting a different type of geosciences research in the Sierra Nevada under the direction of the Keck Geology Consortium.